Sports apparel behemoth Nike dropped over $2 billion on the stock market after one of its sneakers worn by basketball’s “next big thing”, Zion Williamson, sensationally exploded on court.
High-profile courtside attendees, including former US president Barack Obama and prominent film director Spike Lee, sat stunned as Williamson’s Nike PG 2.5 shoes malfunctioned.
The wardrobe disaster saw Duke University’s 18-year-old star crumpled to the ground less than a minute into the clash against the University of North Carolina on Tuesday (AEDT).
The college basketballer’s left shoe disintegrated under the weight of his 129 kilogram frame when he made a charge for the basket.
Zion's shoe: destroyed 😳 pic.twitter.com/LqQ2te0Jay
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
Williamson, who has been touted as one of the most exciting prospects since LeBron James, clutched his right knee when he hit the ground.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters post-game his big star suffered a knee sprain and faces an indefinite period on the sidelines.
The fashion fail had consequences reaching far beyond the white lines of the Cameron Indoor Stadium court.
Nike immediately experienced a public relations nightmare, as fans and basketball’s leading names expressed dismay.
Nike’s market presence stumbles after shocking incident
Tickets for the clash, the most-watched college game of the season, demanded figures upwards of $US9000 – equivalent to some seats for this year’s Superbowl.
That the shoe blew out on National TV. That the shoe blew out for Duke-UNC. That the shoe blew out on Zion Williamson. Awful look for Nike.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 21, 2019
The subsequent backlash reflected the magnitude of the spotlight placed on the game and its premier amateur star.
Nike’s shares closed down 1.1 per cent after Thursday’s trade, a slide of roughly $US1.1 billion ($2.07 billion). They rebounded slightly from a starker drop to open the day’s trading.
— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) February 21, 2019
The sportswear manufacturer issued a statement following the incident, declaring the sturdiness of their products is integral to the brand.
““We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” the statement read.
“While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
Big names weigh in
Social media commentators were quick to let rip, posting scathing reviews of the shoe’s maker, while contemplating the implications to Williamson’s draft prospects.
Eagle-eyed watchers spotted Obama’s swift courtside reaction as other crowd members sat aghast at what occurred.
“His shoe broke”
Obama was shocked pic.twitter.com/tdwKtUJwtF
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 21, 2019
The former president later took to Twitter, wishing the “outstanding young man [and] basketball player” a “speedy recovery.”
Basketball legend James offered his support to the prodigy, seemingly shocked by the young star imparting enough force to destroy his footwear.
Hope young fella is ok! Literally blew thru his 👟. 🙏🏾
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 21, 2019
Other social media users condemned the college basketball system for exploiting the talents of its youngest money drivers.
Competition laws forbid any form of payment for college players’ on-court pursuits, and can only earn a salary once they achieve professional status.
This game alone should be the end of amateurism. So many — Duke, ticket scammers, sponsors, and businesses all throughout Durham — are making so much more money than usual b/c of Zion. He makes nothing, and gets hurt in the game, months before he can cash in. It’s disgraceful.
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) February 21, 2019